Buying a home involves buying into an entire community. It’s important to make sure your new neighborhood suits your needs and preferences every bit as much as the house you decide to purchase. After all, most houses can be modified, but neighborhoods can’t.
Your buyer’s rep will be able to assist you in many important aspects of your purchase, like locating suitable properties, negotiating, and executing essential transaction details. Along the way, they’ll be able to help answer your questions, with the exception of certain questions concerning neighborhoods.
That’s because real estate professionals must abide by Fair Housing laws, which prohibit housing discrimination. Further, neighborhood preferences are highly subjective and personal. As a buyer, YOU need to decide if a neighborhood feels right for you. Your buyer’s reps can point you to excellent resources for background research, but it’s up to you to interpret that information.
When considering a neighborhood, here are some of the most important questions to ask yourself:
1. Schools – Are the public schools well regarded? What are the private school options?
2. Crime – Will I feel safe in this neighborhood?
3. Transportation – How easy is it to get around? Is there convenient access to highways and public transit? Are there problems with traffic, lack of parking, etc.?
4. Demographics – Who else lives here? Will I be able to develop friendships? Will I feel welcome?
5. Eating and shopping – What restaurants and stores are nearby?
6. Recreation – Are there parks and other facilities for sports, entertainment, etc.?
7. House of worship – Regardless of my faith, will I be able to find a new house of worship?
When investigating a neighborhood, don’t limit your research to formal resources. You can also pick up valuable insight by striking up casual conversations with various “locals,” including:
Neighbors — Want to get a better idea of who else lives on the block? Look for opportunities to catch other homeowners in their front yard…or knock on their door.
On a bus/train— If you’ll be using public transit, try taking a “test drive” that includes casual conversation with other commuters.
Stores — Grocery store clerks usually have a few minutes to chat while scanning your purchases. Small independent shop owners may have a particularly good pulse on the community.
Waiting in line — Instead of pulling out your smartphone, pose a couple friendly questions to other people waiting to order at a fast-food restaurant, in a checkout line, etc.
Restaurants — Try a few sit-down restaurants to find new favorite eating-out places while also asking your server about the area.
Coffee shops — Other patrons may be happy to take a few minutes to chat about what they like most about the community.
Schools — Talk to other parents waiting for their kids at the end of the day or chat with a crossing guard.
Library — Ask the person at the reference desk about the community. In addition to sharing his/her personal perspectives, they may be able to point you to additional valuable resources.